Meditation isn't for me. My mind is all over and I just can't do it.
Maybe you’ve meditated before, maybe you’ve wanted to meditate, but didn’t know where to begin, or maybe you think meditation is some hippy, woo-woo, granola thing and you’ve rolled your eyes at it. Maybe meditating left you more uncomfortable than you were before. We welcome you to our small set of blog posts intended to help you learn more about mediation and how it can affect you.
This post is for those of you who have tried to meditate for your own health and well-being. You decided you wanted to feel calmer, or you heard it was “good for you”, so you tried it, but it didn’t go so well. You tried to listen to the words on the Insight Timer App [insert any app offering meditation like Calm, Headspace, or Mindshift, etc]. But the words would not sink in. It felt worse to try to meditate than it did not do it at all. You might have felt frustrated because despite how hard you tried, you just “couldn’t” do it. Your mind was all over the place thinking all kinds of things and being still with your breath was unbearable.
Maybe you approached meditation by trying to sit in silence with a timer set to bring you back. You might have fallen asleep and thought that was a great way to get to sleep, but it didn’t help me feel less anxious, calmer, or more present. What was the point of that other than sleep?
It is not uncommon for people to have a reaction to trying meditation. You might be wondering, if it leaves people feeling uncomfortable, why is this therapist spending their time explaining it to me?
The most important reason I spend time talking about meditation is the way a regular meditation practice leaves me feeling. I am not saying that I don’t have times when I struggle and it feels unbearable too, I do. I am not able to sit and meditate and “clear my mind” and “be still” for significant periods of time every time I do it either.
It’s easy to misunderstand the practice of meditation. I once did a sit at the Zen Centre in Vancouver and was so relieved to hear the monk share that sometimes meditation is excruciatingly painful for them because their mind jumps around so much too. They described their mind like puppies, jumping all over the place. They also explained that this is exactly what to expect. That’s right: EXPECT.
I was flooded with relief. I thought I was just not doing enough of it, or doing it right, or whatever other “something’s wrong with me” shame-based comment you’d like to insert here. I was both surprised and relieved to hear this monk say that if my mind was jumping around, I was doing it right! Now I was really curious about what it was all about.
Meditation in its essence is the practice of bringing your attention back to one specific thing. It is the practice of noticing it when your attention wanders because it will. And then, ideally with grace and compassion, bringing your mind back to that one thing you’ve been focusing on. Often our breath is used as the focus of our attention.
My goal today is simply to acknowledge the most common stumbling block to a meditation practice: feeling like you are doing it wrong. Just sit with this. See if it feels familiar.
Invite the idea that maybe if it is uncomfortable, you’re doing it right. Maybe if you feel you’re not doing it right, it is a beneficial practice for you. If you’ve been struggling with the same shame-based thoughts of ‘something’s wrong with me’ that I did when I began, stay with us and read our next few posts to learn more.